STRANDS BEACH IN DANA POINT

I had forgotten that Strands Beach in Dana Point (also known as The Strand, Salt Creek Beach Park and Strand Vista Park) is one of my favorite places in the world, until Mila and I visited last weekend. It's a bit of work to get down to the beach, but wow, is it worth it. This is the beach my dreams are made of.

The waves are big but there's lots of shallow water for the kids to sit and play in before that point.

Beautiful path along the beach.

Looking out at the ocean from Strand Vista Park, the funicular on the left and stairs on the right, both lead down to the beach.

After leaving this glorious place, we ended the day with dinner at Gulfstream and dessert at Sprinkles Ice Cream. Perfect summer day!

FUN SUMMER MUST-HAVES

In honor of Memorial Day weekend, I thought we better round up some fun summer "must-haves." These are a few of my fav-o-rite things...

Sunnylife Australia makes some cute beach paddles.

Watermelon cooler bag. 

Pineapple ice tray set.

I mean, it's a giant inflatable flamingo.

Beach towel.

Make your own pineapple ice cream boat.

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Honeycomb fruit picks from the newly-opened Oh Happy Day party shop.

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Piรฑata birthday card.

Pineapple wallpaper.

CRYSTAL COVE BEACH

I'm not gonna lie, when I first got to Crystal Cove State Park, I was a bitter, bitter woman. I thought, why go through all this hassle (parking in a lot across the street, taking a shuttle and then walking down a hill) to get to a beach? Obviously, I'm a spoiled Californian, but still, it did beg the question. But once I got down to the beach, laid my eyes on the ocean and felt the sand surround my feet, I exhaled.

Head to the tide pools, over to your left.

Gorgeous view.

You can even stay at one of the beach cottages.

The Beachcomber Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Spend $15 or more with them and they'll validate your parking.

We went for lemonade and Pellegrino at the bar.

Other places to eat within 15 minutes: R+D Kitchen, Gulfstream, Bandera. You're kind of in Hillstone heaven in Newport. 

THE FLOWER FIELDS

Unless I book a trip to Holland, The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch are probably my best chance at seeing 70 million flowers. The floricultural attraction spans 50 acres of colorful hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean (about 2 hours south of Los Angeles). 

The Flower Fields are only open a couple months every year (March 1 - May 10, 2015). 

The main attraction is the massive sea of ranunculus.

About 125,000 visitors tour the ranunculus fields, to see brilliantly bright colors like sunset gold, pink and merlot. 

Antique tractor ride for $5.

Lots of room for running.

The highlight for Mila was Santa's Playground, especially the great pink house.

Food within 15 minutes: In-N-Out Burger Carlsbad, Whole Foods Encinitas. 

CARPINTERIA SEAL SANCTUARY

The Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary is an easy day trip from Los Angeles. But you really only need an hour there. So if you're on your way to Santa Barbara, it makes for a good stop to get out and stretch your legs.

It's home to almost 100 adult seals who give birth to their cubs on the Carpinteria shoreline. 

The sanctuary is a protected birthing habitat for harbor seals [from December] through May every year. 

The winding trail leads down to a beautiful coastal view.

Lots of room for running.

The trail goes for miles along the bluffs -- offering great views overlooking the ocean. 

This way!

There they are, the mommies and babies. The Sanctuary recommends bringing binoculars, and you can see why. The beach is closed so this is the closest you're gonna get. 

Taking it all in. [Mila's dress is by Nellystella.]